Something Lost

In many ways, the Heurich House Museum is a museum in formation; we have a wonderful archival collection of photographs and documents, but we are just now inventorying them for the first time. This means that is still a great deal of detective work to be done to determine exactly who is in each photograph, when and where they are taken, and what their significance may be.

One such photo shows an elderly Christian Heurich standing, with his hat in his hand, almost as if he is about to walk off somewhere.  Where is he? What is that interesting building behind him? How old is he? Why is he there?

With a magnifying glass and some squinting, we were able to make out the metal marquee to the right of Heurich’s head: Hotel Alpenhof.  A quick Google search initially led to the website for a new, sleek hotel with the same name. But further investigation turned up a Flicker album showing incredible photos of an abandoned hotel in Austria. Ghostly images of made-up beds, personal letters and photos, and empty bottles portray a once lively hotel, which at some point was deserted.

Hotel Alpenhof metal sign.  Via Flickr


hotel alpenhof
Exterior of Hotel Alpenhof via Pinterest

According to one comment in the Flickr account, local residents say that a legal battle over the property since 1968 has kept it closed. The photos show letters with the name Nagele, and depict grave markers for Adolf Nagele (1960) and Rosa Nagele (1973). Searches for this name provided nothing, however a related search brought us to a nearby hotel, Hotel Post (built 1903).  In the chronicle of that hotel, a note from 1989 is of interest:

The restaurant is enlarged. The conservatory, hotel hall and new bar are built. This was only possible due to the acquisition of land from the 4 owners of the Hotel Alpenhof. The negotiations had taken 20 years.

A search for the Hotel Alpenhof property on Google Earth (dated 1999) and the the Flickr photos date to 2008 shows that the building is in fact still standing.

Far out view of Hotel Post and Hotel Alpenhof


The photo of Heurich with his hat sure looked a lot like Hotel Alpenhof, but we needed real confirmation from the Heurich House Museum archives.  Amelia Heurich’s “One Line a Day” journals, plus Christian Heurich’s detailed autobiographies that highlighted his European travels, were the best place to start.

In August 1927, Christian and Amelia Heurich traveled to Europe on the steamer Columbus, as they did almost every summer, bringing along Amelia’s sister and their friends the Gichners. Christopher_Columbus_whaleback_Milw_Broadway_bridgedock

On this trip, the Heurichs visited Innsbruk, Austria, the capital city of the state of Tirol.  This region was known for Tyrolean Oil, a mineral derived from shale and believed to have healing qualities.  Heurich was a great proponent of holistic healing remedies, often taking “cures” while traveling throughout Europe (he suffered from rheumatism), so it may not be a coincidence that he traveled to Tirol.

A few days after landing, the group took a ride along the scenic mountains, eventually finding themselves in Pertisau (or Gamisch, as Amelia write in her journal), a small town near Lake Achensee.

Mountains and Lake Achensee in Pertisau, State of Tirol, Austria.

Amelia recorded many details of their trip, including this uncomfortable experience:

Aug. 14—“We took a ride in the mts.  In some way a yellow jacket stung me in my mouth.  I pulled the sting out myself—used plenty of whiskey.  

-Amelia Heurich’s journal entry for August 14, 1927.

Photo Dec 16, 3 20 40 PM
Amelia Heurich’s Journal, dated 1927-1931

On August 16, 1927, Amelia noted that the travel party had reached Garmisch Hotel Alpenhof Park Hotel.  BINGO!

Photo Dec 16, 3 20 11 PM

This is the only time that Amelia mentions Hotel Alpenhof, and it is enough to confirm our theory.

The Hotel Alpenhof was also thought to have been the inspiration for Elinor M. Brent-Dyer’s cult classic Chalet School books, and was known to many as the Chalet school or The School at the Chalet. Some believe that author was staying at the Hotel Alpenhof for a holiday and was inspired to reflect some of the hotel’s attributes in the Chalet School.  Others are skeptical that Dyer would have stayed at Hotel Alpenhof, as it was expensive. Whatever the real truth is, the setting for a few of these books are in beautiful Pertisau.